Digital PlanetAuthor: BBC World Service
10 Apr 2021

Digital Planet

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Technological and digital news from around the world.

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    Phones sending data every 4.5 minutes

    Our smartphones are sharing data every four and a half minutes according to research from Trinity College Dublin. Telemetry, automated recording and transmission of data, from Apple and Android devices back to these company’s servers is going on even if the phone is only used to make calls. Professor Douglas Leith is on the programme and explains that even when a user has logged out of sending telemetry or they are not logged on, data is still being transmitted. R.U.R. versus Q.U.R. The 1921 play Rossum’s Universal Robots (R.U.R.) by Karel C̆apek gave rise to the term “robot,” but the 1941 short story Quinby’s Usuform Robots (Q.U.R.) by Anthony Boucher more accurately reflects today’s robots says Professor Robin Murphy from Texas A&M University. Robin, herself a disaster robotics specialist, is on the show to discuss how these two different ideas developed in very different social and political climates and what we can learn from both these Sci-fi stories. Virtual Stadium Noise If you've been watching sport in the last few months you may have noticed that stadiums are almost empty. But when you watch the game, it's very likely that you will hear a crowd cheering the players on. So what's going on? It looks like broadcasters are turning to video games, for the sound of the crowd. Our reporter Chris Berrow has been finding out. (Image credit: Getty Images) The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Angelica Mari. Studio Manager: Giles Aspen Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz

  • Posted on 06 Apr 2021

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    China’s online restrictions increase

    The Chinese government’s highly restricted approach to online freedom of expression has intensified during the COVID pandemic – not surprising maybe, but the implication of this on Chinese citizens and countries across Asia is significant. That’s one of the findings of research published by Chatham House. Harriet Moynihan, from the International Law Programme at Chatham House, is one of the authors of the paper and joins us on the show. Cellulose Electronic Thread For electronic textiles to enter the market on a large scale they need to be sustainable. Now scientists at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden have developed thread made from conductive cellulose, which can be threaded through a sewing machine. The sewn garments can even be washed in a machine. Sustainable wearable tech would massively reduce electronic waste and could also lead to better healthcare monitoring eg blood pressure or heart rate of the person wearing the smart clothes. Sozan Darabi explains how they developed the thread and how she had to use her sewing skills to create the outfits. Evil Corp – the board game of tech giants Fancy becoming a tech billionaire who can save the world? Well you can by playing a new board game called “Evil Corp”. The game allows you to play as one of 6 Evil CEO billionaires intent on accruing billions of dollars and start-ups. The aim is to “Save the World, No Matter the Cost”. The games’ inventor Alfie Dennon says he wants us to think about the power tech tycoons have over our everyday lives online, in how we shop, work and play. Image: Chinese flag displayed on laptop screen, plus smartphone with block symbol displayed Credit: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Bill Thompson. Studio Manager: Giles Aspen Producers: Emil Petrie and Ania Lichtarowicz

  • Posted on 30 Mar 2021

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    AI chatbot takes witness statements

    Court cases can collapse due to unreliable witness statements. These are often taken some time after the crime has happened – but what if it was possible to take a witness statement very quickly using AI chatbots? Dr Julia Shaw is on the programme discussing her latest research into using an AI chatbot in reporting harassment in the workplace. Not only are statements taken more quickly, they are done better by a machine than a person, as people can interrupt, misinterpret, judge or incorrectly record statements. The AI chatbot sticks to a script and allows the witness to do the same. Machine learning to understand Tinnitus AI is helping to advance research into tinnitus, a condition often described as a ringing, buzzing or hissing in the ears, which affects up to 1 in 5 adults. Clinicians currently have no objective means of diagnosing tinnitus and must rely on the accounts of people living with the condition. But machine learning algorithms, combined with brain imaging techniques, are allowing scientists to develop a clinical tool to measure tinnitus objectively. Anthea Lacchia reports. Women’s Engineering Society Prize Shrouk El-Attar describes herself as an Electronics Engineer, a bellydancer, an LGBTQ+ campaigner and refugee. She is the winner of the WES Prize IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year Award, to add to a multitude of prizes she has already received. She’s helped design a pelvic floor trainer - a treatment for incontinence - and is redesigning the breast pump to allow women to express their milk much more easily and quietly. Gareth finds out what inspires her and more about the tech she designs. The programme was presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Ghislaine Boddington. Image: AI chatbot Credit: tadamichi/iStock Getty Images Studio Manager: Giles Aspen Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz and Emil Petrie

  • Posted on 23 Mar 2021

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    Is Bitcoin energy use unsustainable?

    It seems that the price of Bitcoin cannot stop increasing, but how sustainable is Bitcoin itself? With such huge energy demands to keep Bitcoin mined, are some countries risking the stability of their electricity supplies to take advantage of the Bitcoin boom? Financial economist and founder of the blog “Digiconomist”, Alex de Vries is on the show to answer these questions. He says, in his paper published in the journal Joule, that the entire Bitcoin blockchain network consumes as much energy per year as all data centres across the world. Access to the internet – affordability and lack of infrastructure still a major barrier It’s the web’s 32nd birthday, yet its creator Sir Tim Berners-Lee has warned that too many young people cannot connect and that the digital gap has widened during the pandemic. His comments come just after the latest ITU/A4AI report into the affordability of the internet, which found that nearly half of people with 4G coverage are not online as it’s too expensive to connect. A4AI’s Executive Director Sonia Jorge returns to the show to discuss the latest figures. TBL also called for a global push to connect young people. The WebFoundation has announced a list of global web champions, and one of them, Ian Mangenga from South Africa, joins us on the show to talk about her project Digital Girl Africa. (Hi)Story of a Painting (Hi)Story of a Painting is a new animated VR series to be premiered at the SXSW Online festival. The five episodes take the viewer on a journey through iconic paintings and tell the stories behind them; the artist’s practice, struggles and successes. The series’ co-creator Gaëlle Mourre, is on the programme to discuss how she created this gaze tech-led immersive experience, and made it safe to view in our own homes during lockdown. Image: Mining rigs of super computer inside the bitcoin factory ‘Genesis Farming’ near Reykjavik, Iceland Credit: Photo by HALLDOR KOLBEINS/AFP via Getty Images The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Angelica Mari. Studio Manager: Giles Aspen Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz

  • Posted on 16 Mar 2021

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    The cost of bias in AI fintech

    We’ve been discussing bias in AI on the programme for more than a year now but what is the actual cost of it? KPMG is publishing a report, commissioned by the fintech company Finastra, which examines the size of global consumer lending markets and the potential impact of algorithmic bias in money lending decisions. Amber Sappington, Head of Data & Analytics at Finastra, discusses the potential problems and why there’s an urgency for the industry to acknowledge the problem and act on it. Problematic Smartphone Use ‘Smartphone addiction’ has been in the news, following the publication of a new study by the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience Library at King’s in London. However, ‘Smartphone addiction’ is not a recognised medical condition. Gareth speaks with Dr Nicky Kalk, one of the authors of the study, about problematic smartphone use, and if it will be recognised as an illness. Virtually Shakespeare The Royal Shakespeare Company, the Philharmonia and Epic Games are amongst 15 organisations who are premiering a new live performance of “Dream” (which was inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream) using motion capture to tell the story of Puck. The aim is to create a shared live experience between a remote audience and a group of physical performers where the live audience can directly influence the world of the actors. Unlike a regular live stream, audiences will play an active role in world-building and the wider storytelling experience, as they would in any gaming environment. Reporter Hannah Fisher has more. The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary by Ghislaine Boddington. Studio Manager: John Boland Producers: Emil Petrie and Ania Lichtarowicz Image: Young woman uses digital tablet on virtual visual screen at night Credit: dowell/Moment/Getty Images

  • Posted on 09 Mar 2021

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